Manchester United travel to Birmingham on Sunday to face Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Premier League. Erik ten Hag’s side have started 2024 positively with four wins (two in the Premier League and two in the Emirates FA Cup) and one draw – undefeated do far.
United last played a week prior to this match, so they will be well rested. Villa played during the week, ending their participation in the FA Cup this season. At the time of writing, Villa sit in fourth place in the league, eight points ahead of United, who are sixth.
Ten Hag suffered a major blow against West Ham last weekend after Lisandro Martinez was injured and will miss around eight weeks with a knee injury, another spell on the sidelines for the United defender, which will knock his confidence ahead of the run in to the season.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Shaw;
Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford;
Andre Onana looks set to continue in goal for United this weekend even though he has conceded 50 goals so far this season. It has been a terrible time for the player and the club and there needs to be a solution in the works to solve United’s leaky defence once and for all.
Onana has been known as a positive goalkeeper because of his distribution but his errors in goal have been a major problem for United. That said, he has had a few good performances that seem to underline his abilities but there have been far more problems than successes for the Cameroonian.
Altay Bayindir looks set to remain on the bench for United, even despite his positive display in goal for United against Newport County in the Emirates FA Cup whilst Onana was involved in the African Cup of Nations playing for his country. Ten Hag will need to solve this goalkeeper problem.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Shaw
United’s defence has been rocked by yet another injury this season with Lisandro Martinez suffering a knee injury which will keep him out for the next eight weeks at least. That will have ben devastating for the defender who already sat out much of the season through injury already.
Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw will play in the fullback positions, as at this time, these are the best players in those positions and they really get United going forward, playing from the back. Ten Hag will be pleased with what both players have offered the club this season.
In the centre of the defence, with Martinez out of action for the foreseeable future, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire could partner each other once again. Prior to his injury, Maguire was doing well at the club following a summer of rumours surrounding an exit from the Old Trafford club.
Midfield: Casemiro, Mainoo
United’s midfield is in good hands this season with Casemiro back in action following a long injury spell on the sidelines. His experience will be crucial for United to achieve something this season. The Brazilian is a player that was a big miss for the club for much of the season.
Kobbie Mainoo is a player on the right road to success and now that even he is off the mark this season with two goals and two assists. This midfield is a good mix of experience and talented youth, which is what United is all about. Ten Hag will have options to bring on too.
Christian Eriksen partnered Casemiro last season and the dup did well together. Scott McTominay is also an option from the bench, especially after his goal against Wolves and his assist against West Ham. Sofyan Amrabat is also an option against Villa – his experience cold be good for United.
Attacking Midfield: Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford
United attacking like behind the striker are a talented force of players. Ten Hag will be pleased that things are starting to work well with this group of players, which also seems to be happing now that the injured players have started to reintegrate into the squad once again.
Alejandro Garnacho should be starting for United against Villa as he seems to be the best option on the right-wing at this stage of the season. The winger has seven goals and two assist so far this season. Bruno Fernandes should keep his place in the central area of the attacking line.
Marcus Rashford should start on the left-wing. He has not scored as many goals as he scored last season, but he has got himself off the marks and on the road to finding some form. Antony could replace the forward later in the match as he could occupy the left-wing too.
Rasmus Hojlund is now on ten goals for the season, which has shown a massive change in his ability and he is oozing in confidence ahead of the remainder of the season. The Danish striker is a talented player and the criticism that he has got this season has been terrible.
Former United players seem to not like him, which is a problem as the media will jump on things like that and use it to beat the club and the player. Personally, I think that Hojlund is a great player for United, which he has shown in the last five matches with five goals and two assists.
United do not have a player that can step in for the Danish striker with Anthony Martial on the sidelines, not that he is a player that will do much – as the last few years at the club have shown. United will need to get cover for Hojlund in the summer or at least find cover at the club.
Substitutes: Bayindir; Lindelof, Evans; Amrabat, Eriksen, McTominay, Forson; Amad, Antony
United will have nine players on the bench at Villa Park with the ability to utilise five of them throughout the match. Altay Bayindir will remain on the bench after Onana showed some ability and confidence against the Hammers last week – which is a confidence boost for him.
The defence looks to be weaker than it has in previous weeks with Martinez back on the sidelines with an injury. Ten Hag could have just Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans on the bench against Villa. Maybe Willy Kambwala if another player is not available in other positions.
On the midfield, Sofyan Amrabat, Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay and Omari Forson could all be available for United against Villa. A mixture of experience and youth. In the attacking ranks, United are short again with Amad Diallo and Antony the only attackers on the bench.
Written by John Walker